New deputy city clerk position considered
BY STARRLA CRAY
WINSTED, MN Winsted City Council members approved a 3.89 percent increase for the preliminary 2016 property tax levy at a special meeting Sept. 25.
The plan tentatively includes funds to raise employee compensation by about $27,000 and add a deputy clerk position. It also accounts for an 8 percent cost increase in employee benefits, as well as a single-step salary increase for each employee.
“I want to stress that this is a very conservative budget,” City Administrator Dan Tienter said, explaining that expenses are estimated high, and revenue is estimated low.
The council could lower the preliminary levy before final approval in December, but cannot raise it. Originally, council members had planned a 3.56 percent levy increase, but decided to add about $3,000 for elections next year, instead of taking the money from a different fund.
Total expenditures are up about $100,000 compared to 2015, and revenue is up about $55,000.
Council Member Max Fasching was not able to attend the Sept. 25 meeting, but provided notes stating that he was not in favor of a $100,000 spending increase.
“The next five years are going to be difficult for Winsted,” he noted, explaining that water and sewer costs are rising, and taxes for Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District may also be increasing.
Council Member Tom Ollig commented that he doesn’t believe it’s the city’s job to “soften the blow” to taxpayers due to school district decisions.
“If taxes go up for the average homeowner based on what the school district has done, that’s not our responsibility,” he said.
Fasching also noted that he thought the $27,000 compensation increase was too high, and he had concerns about adding a full-time deputy clerk position.
“While he’s not necessarily opposed to it, he wanted to have other discussions about what alternatives could be explored,” Tienter said, noting that he and Fasching had discussed this topic earlier.
Ollig said one of Winsted’s current employees is qualified for the deputy clerk position, and he would like to see that person be offered the job.
“I’m totally for this deputy clerk position,” Mayor Steve Stotko agreed, stating that Winsted is a busy city with many projects in the works.
Winsted’s preliminary levy includes $843,582 for the general levy, and $322,750 for the debt levy.
“About half of the city’s expenditures [48 percent] are funded through the property tax levy,” Tienter said, adding that the remaining portion is funded by the state (39 percent), miscellaneous (10 percent), and fees/fines/permits/charges for services (3 percent).
Tienter noted that because market values for properties throughout Minnesota are increasing, property tax rates are declining. As a result, if a person’s property did not change in value since 2012, they would pay less in city taxes for 2016.
A $140,000 home in Winsted, for example, would have been taxed $1,065 in 2012. For 2016, a $140,000 home would be taxed about $930.
Tax levy comparison
A look at preliminary 2016 property tax levy percent increases in the area. Information provided by the City of Winsted:
• Waverly 0 percent
• Silver Lake 0.45 percent
• Glencoe 1.54 percent
• Hutchinson 2.40 percent
• McLeod County 2.73 percent
• Howard Lake 3.10 percent
• Area average 3.76 percent
• Winsted 3.89 percent
• Montrose 4.93 percent
• Delano 5.70 percent
• Lester Prairie 7 percent
• Brownton 10 percent
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• scheduled public hearings for Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. to consider adopting franchise ordinances for Mediacom and TDS Telecom.